The family’s SUV pulled away from the University grounds and Beth fell apart sobbing. Her eldest son, now a college freshman, was the first of her three children to leave home. She later realized and confessed what was behind her tears and lamentations on that highly emotional day. Her tears were not as much about her son no longer living at home and his no longer being a child, but rather that she was rarely present in the 18 years he was home, and was a child. She wondered where the years went, leaving in there wake only a recollection of rushed carpools, laundered baseball uniforms and dinners on the run. She mourned not that time had passed, but that she rarely paused to drink up the deliciousness of those times. It is with this example that we come to know the definition of real presence in life.
Being present requires more from us than merely showing up with our physical bodies. Truly being present asks that we have a conscious awareness and appreciation of the present moment. True presence is magnified by sincere appreciation of whatever that present moment holds—even if it is less than desirable.
Capturing moments of presence in life can yield a peace characteristic of the finest meditation experience or healing massage. It makes our senses come alive and boosts our appreciation of the often overlooked and under appreciated elements of life. It is in moments of presence that we appreciate our full range of emotions and recognize that each passes, yielding to whatever is contained in the “new” present moment. In this way, there is only now. How we appreciate now is how we appreciate life, because “right now,” is all that any of us will ever have.
Increasing our awareness of the present moment seems to be most challenged by its noisy neighbor, time. Time seems to both bless us and try us, clamoring for our attention. We spend money and energy trying to conquer this illusive ingredient in our daily lives. Whether it is the desire to slow the aging process or multiply productivity in our allotted daily 24 hours, we try to control the uncontrollable. We evaluate our productivity, success, and life’s work in terms of hours and minutes, but of course this is not where true satisfaction and contentment resides. Living a life of “presence” is to live with purpose, intention and grounded appreciation.
So why is it that we often find ourselves going fast-forward, wanting to get on to the “next thing,” or in slow-motion looking for more? Perhaps it is that we are sure that there will be a “next moment” or a “next thing.” If we knew or even suspected that the sands in our life’s hourglass were dwindling in number, our level of presence would increase. That morsel of food may linger longer on our taste buds. We might sit longer beside that sleeping child to drink up the sweetness of his slumber and steady breathing. We might raise our head to the sky in the evening to find the moon and pinpoint the Sea of Tranquility on its face.
Presence in the most ordinary of moments allows our senses to find what is right with the world and beautiful in our lives. We are gifted with being more than merely the do-er, but moreover a witness to wonder. This cannot help but be steeped in appreciation for people, events, relationships and nature. It is then that the soft fur of a treasured pet becomes softer to the touch and the hot water pelting your back during your morning shower becomes a greater gift to each cell in your body.
Exercises in Presence:
- Allow yourself one full minute to eat a singular raisin or square of chocolate from your favorite bar. Roll it around in your mouth, feel its texture and then slowly let the taste dance on your tongue as your chew it in slow motion. Imagine that it will be the last taste you will ever have of this food. How would you relish it if you knew you were to never again taste this sweet fruit or chocolate?
- Light a candle and darken a room. Devote a period of time (ranging from 5 minutes to 30 minutes) to a candle meditation where you will only focus your eyes on the movement of the dancing flame, the colors of the fire and aura produced by the glimmering light.
- Retreat to a favorite spot in nature on a sunny day. Close your eyes and feel the sun warm your skin. Take notice when a gentle breeze caresses and cools your skin. Breathe in the warmth of the sun, which has gifted our planet with its warmth for billions of years while never asking a thing in return.
- Trade your shallow breathing for deep breaths. Set a timer and invest one minute in focused breathing. Fill your lungs intentionally with a slow, deep inhalation and then a focused exhalation. Feel your lungs expand and contract. Set the intention to actually feel the oxygen fuel the cells of your body. When you have mastered one minute, add another until you have a daily practice that will fuel you in unimagined ways.
Eckhart Tolle explains in his book A New Earth, that the most important “relationship in your life is the relationship you have with the Now.” This powerful statement is an invitation to awaken to a higher level of consciousness. In both crisis and in ease we can choose to make the present moment a friend and ally, one that wants us to mute the ego and abolish fear. When this happens, what is left in its wake is an appreciation of the present moment--just as it is.
Rena M Reese is the founder of Soul Salon International, an inspirational multimedia company that also offers coaching and consulting to help people find their “happy place.” She is the author of several titles, a professional speaker and the host of a weekly radio program, The Soul Salon. Please visit SoulSalonInternational.com on the web, on Facebook and on twitter @TheSoulSalon.